Michelangelo had the Medici family, Jackson Pollock had Peggy Guggenheim, and Andy Warhol had his pool of celebrities, but do art patrons exist in the contemporary world? In Santa Barbara, they do. This edition of Off the Wall features visionary business owners who understand the power of art to transform an ordinary space into something spectacular-and who support the artists who make it happen.
What do you get when you mix the retro architecture of a mid-century motel with the contemporary stylings of two emerging artists? The answer is a streamlined but sophisticated place to rest your head. Presidio Motel proprietors Chris Sewell and his girlfriend Kenny Osehan were searching for a way to update the historical structure while keeping the rooms affordable and stylish. When they invited former UCSB art students Stephanie Mansolf and Kat Trajano to install vinyl cutout wall murals in all 16 of the boutique motel’s rooms, they got some imaginative and impressive results. Like an updated Fantasy Suites (but without the seedy overtones), each room has a unique personality and theme, blending playful imagery-parachuting elephants and a woman on a tightrope-with skillful uses of graphic design-inspired stencils and patterns. In one room, fake chandelier lighting wraps its swinging chains across the ceiling in a trompe l’oeil effect, transforming kitschy 1970s decoration into a slick, retooled version of itself.
Known best for its California cuisine and wine, Bouchon Santa Barbara is dedicated to exploring the finer things in life, including the work of Santa Barbara area artist James-Paul Brown. Brown’s contemporary impressionist paintings provide the already sophisticated restaurant atmosphere with an invigorating visual palette that complements the creations of Chef Josh Brown. A prolific painter with an extensive portfolio, Brown has show his work in a variety of locations, from the Reagan Library to fine dining restaurants in New York to bottle labels for local winery Sunstone. While Bouchon primarily displays his colorful, expressive landscapes, Brown explores a wide range of subject matter including cityscapes, celebrities, and athletes, some of which can also be seen at Petit Valentin just down the street in La Arcada Court.
Joining in the spirit of enthusiastic art patronage is Chilango’s on State Street. They’ve recently undergone a renovation, and to give the space even more spice, the owners have displayed the eclectic, graffiti-art inspired work of Vanae Rivera, aka Mary the Machine. As Rivera’s sassy alter ego, Mary the Machine is the subject of every work, painted in various poses and outlined over stencils and washes of color. Rivera’s graphic style, combined with alternative materials including brass studs and burlap, gives off a vibe of youthful brashness.
With its bright colors and bold style, Patrick Burke’s work at the UCSB Faculty Club casts a fresh light on the lagoon-surrounded restaurant. Burke’s work takes cues from a Cubist language, merging deliberate but sparse abstracted figures with a Day-Glo palette and adopting symbolic imagery from ancient cave drawings to evoke the untold stories of prehistory. There’s a mystery to his work that captivates the viewer both visually and emotionally.